May 06, 2011

Banks in Fiji want to hear from consumers

Tucked away, all neat and incospicuously at the end of their statement ON THEIR WEBSITE, the banks finally concede that they would just "welcome" the public to engage with their CEO's on the issue of the Consumer Councils report on Banking Services.

In down-playing the Consumer Council report via this web release, their own submission in response appears verbose and without substance.

The Consumer Council's mandate is very clear -- they are mandated by the
Consumer Council of Fiji Act 1976 to protect our interests as consumers.

If you're concerned about how the banks waste spend your money, get down to the Civic Auditorium Lower Hall this Saturday and ask the hard questions of those ABIF CEOs -- it is after all your money.
ABIF's response to Consumer Council's report on Banking Services...........

The Association of Banks in Fiji (ABIF) on behalf of its member-Banks has now carried out further evaluation of the Consumer Council of Fiji’s Report on “Banking Services in Fiji: From Consumers Perspective”, made public on 14 March this year. Our previous and detailed response is included as Appendix 5 of the report and sadly would appear to have been ignored in the final report.

In our earlier letter to the Consumer Council the ABIF had tried to assist the Council better understand the numerous issues and misunderstandings contained in their earlier draft report.  The Reserve Bank of Fiji in its letter of 3 November 2011 to the Council (Appendix 6 in the Council’s Report) also wrote to clear up many basic misunderstandings about how the banking system operates in Fiji.  It is clear that the author(s) of the final report do not fully comprehend the various issues, and continue to use the banking industry in Australia as a relevant model when evaluating the financial system in Fiji.

It is also disappointing that the author and the Consumer Council both refused to provide us with the full details of the survey they commissioned and which is only partially and very selectively summarised in Section 5.3 of the Report.

Given that the first points of the Executive Summary of the report state that the Report reviews banking services from the perspective of the consumer and leans heavily on this survey, we find the refusal to publish full results to be highly questionable.

Nevertheless in the interest of Fiji and its people, the Association shall endeavour to correct the inaccuracies of the report and allay any doubts that may have been created in the minds of the readers of this Report.

At this point in time and due to the gross lack of attention to care and detail displayed by the author of the Report the ABIF considers it pointless to give a line by line rebuttal of the whole document.  However in order not to be accused of evasion we have for the benefit of consumers again responded formally to the key findings, details of which will be posted very shortly on our ABIF website at the following link

We recognise that the Consumer Council report has triggered the involvement of the Commerce Commission into an investigation of the overall financial industry. All of our members actually welcome this development as we are in fact aware of many malpractices at the lower end of the finance industry, notably most of the almost 400 regulated money lenders and in fact some we believe who may not be regulated.

The ABIF and its members have offered both the Commerce Commission and the RBF their full cooperation as we feel that the contribution of the major banks to the financial wellbeing of Fiji has actually been both unfairly questioned and under appreciated on the basis of one report written by a former RBF Board Member who has not presented anything remotely resembling a fair portrayal of the industry, who does not even take into account feedbacks from stakeholders and who refuses to publish his source data or even release it to those entities he criticises.

We have every respect for the work of the Consumer Council and for the tenacious efforts of their CEO. We do recognise that some of our charges may be antiquated and in need of review and we will continue to work together with our regulator to update the banking environment.

In the last two years, the influence of RBF on behalf of the consumer has reduced interest margins by between 1 – 2% across the board for the benefit of the consumer. It has also accelerated the widespread expansion of EFTPOS and ATM machines across Fiji where most certainly there is aggressive competition amongst banks.

We are just saddened that neither the Consumer Council which commissioned the report nor the EU which funded it were prepared to check their facts or to make comparisons with similar countries.

The ABIF is holding a Banking Expo on Saturday 7th May in the Lower Hall of the Suva Civic Auditorium and we have put aside one hour for all banks CEO’s to answer questions from the public which we welcome

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